Long working hours, working alone and feeling undervalued and out of touch with the general public are among the key factors causing loneliness in the farming community, according to a major new study.
Research by the Rural Policy Research Center (CRPR) at the University of Exeter and the national charity The Farming Community Network (FCN) has identified the reasons why farmers and farm families may feel isolated and alone, while exposing many of the challenges and pressures that farmers regularly face in their trade. The research was conducted by Dr Rebecca Wheeler and Professor Matt Lobley of the Center for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter and Dr Jude McCann and Alex Phillimore MCIPR of the Farming Community Network (FCN).
The study involved in-depth interviews with 22 farmers / farm family members and 6 farm support practitioners in England, conducted by phone or video call between March and July 2021.
A farmer, aged 50-59, said: ‘I don’t understand what people expect from UK farming anymore. This is what makes me feel a little lonely and a little sad really.
Recommendations made in the report include:
The work of Farming Help charities, including FCN, is vital and these associations must be properly funded.
Regulatory inspectors and agricultural insurance assessors should be trained to recognize mental health issues.
Rural general practitioners and community psychiatric nurses should be better informed and better trained on the specific problems and challenges faced by members of the farming community.
There should be an expansion of practical and commercial support for farmers.
Continued investment in rural broadband access by local authorities / providers is essential to improve connectivity and reduce isolation.
There should be more social and networking opportunities (both in person and online) for farmers, farm workers and farm family members at the local level.
Further education of young people on food production, agriculture and the environment is needed to help attract more people to agriculture and to reduce the feeling of “disconnection” from the wider society that many feel. farmers.
Spending time with family and getting away from the farm should be normalized by promoting culture change within farming communities.